The Philippine government was told to assert its position at the World Trade Organization (WTO) regarding harmful subsidies that bigger countries like China provide their commercial fleets, resulting in overfishing and encroaching in disputed waters.

This, since China alone gives out P325 billion in fisheries subsidies, enabling its fleet to encroach even in disputed waters such as in the Philippines, Norberto Chingcuanco, co-convenor at food security advocacy group Tugon Kabuhayan, said in a virtual briefing.

During the same briefing, Tugon Kabuhayan Convenor and former Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) National Director Asis Perez said that the Philippines should not allow for negotiations at WTO to end without having to address the harmful subsidies that bigger nations have been distributing among their fleet.

“[If WTO decides against our position] we will continue to suffer. The Philippine government should not allow this to happen” Perez said.

To recall, during the virtual ministerial meeting of the WTO trade negotiations committee on fisheries subsidies held last week, the Philippine delegation called for the WTO panel to continue hearing cases of harmful subsidies even if the fishing operation occurred on the so-called “disputed waters”.

It was emphasized that harmful subsidies should be prohibited in all waters, disputed or not.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar and Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez likewise called on fellow agriculture and trade ministers to speed up negotiations to come up with new disciplines to eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, overfished stocks, and overcapacity and overfishing.

In the Philippines, 27 to 40 percent of the fish caught in 2019 came from IUU, which translates to approximately P62 billion (US$1.3 billion) in revenues annually.

Moreover, at least 30,000 or 30 percent of municipal vessels that coast along Philippine waters remain unregistered, while commercial fishers, including foreign ones, do not report up to 422,000 metric tons of fish each year.

It can be recalled that in March of this year, 237 Chinese vessels were found swarming Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef) with their presence continuing into May. The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said the vessels are about 60 meters in length and can each carry an estimated 240,000 kilos of fish.

Perez then warned at the time that the catch of the sighted fishing vessels has already caught at least 54,984 metric tons of fish, which already amounted the Philippines losses of at least P3.5 billion worth of marine catch.

“These vessels are committing IUU fishing in our waters and they are able to do it despite being not economically viable because these Chinese fishing vessels are recipients of massive Chinese Government Subsidy,” Tugon Kabuhayan said.

“A 60-meter fishing vessel would require at least 5,000 to 10,000 liters of fuel to operate daily, at least 35 officers and men to operate, and huge maintenance and depreciation cost as each vessel can easily be over 10 million dollars each,” it added.

Perez said that aside from China, others that provide significant subsidies to their fleet include the governments of the United States and of other countries in Europe.

Source: Manila Bulletin (